In his speech today at the ANU School of Art, ACT Chief Minister Jon Stanhope revealed that his motivation for dropping the two-year-old percent-for-art scheme was based on pre-election polling and focus group sessions, which revealed that dissatisfaction with the Public Art Program was consistently in the top 5 reasons why voters would switch to the Libs. So, hidden amongst other announcements, the policy was dumped just prior to the last local election. His speech (I’ll link to it when I find it) gave a history of public art in Canberra since the 60s, and some sense that some millions were still to be spent – presumably from other sources. What went wrong? he asked. He had hoped that his “expert independent advisory panel” would have taken some of the heat, but no, it all came back to him, as he “launched” one after another of the new sculptures, a fair proportion of which were “off the shelf” from commercial galleries and Sydney’s Sculpture by the Sea. As I’ve often commented (follow the thread at Public Artefacts in the sidebar), his “expert independent advisory panel” includes only one person with wide-ranging visual arts expertise (the recently appointed CMAG’s Deborah Clark) plus a token visual artist (Chrissy Grishin, aka G.W.Bot). Little wonder the streets of Canberra came to look like a weirdly chaotic private collection, with minor works scattered around higgledy-piggledy, in a manner that seems to lack any vision other than to hedge against the vicissitudes of popular taste. Speaking of which, he has just announced this horrific non-sculpture planned for the streets of Gungahlin. It’s a disaster zone. What’s the answer? 1. Appoint a Curator of Public Art with the authority to clean it all up, to curate the public spaces of Canberra. 2. Emulate Sydney’s Sculpture by the Sea and fill the city with temporary works every year or so. 3. Commission new works rather than just go shopping (sometimes it’s the CM himself). 4. Commission public works that are not necessarily lumps of bronze. 5. Emulate the Serpentine Gallery’s Pavilion program and install great works of architecture in the Dead Heart between the Melbourne and Sydney Buildings. But bronze Bunyips? It may already be too late.
ACT Chief Minister reacts to polling, bets on a bronze bunyip
September 2nd, 2010 | PUBLIC ARTEFACTS